I  was at a children’s store the other day to buy a birthday present for one of my grandchildren (I only give clothes, no toys) and the manager presented me with the offer of a sizeable discount if I opened a credit card. It was one I couldn’t refuse but should have. So I did. I later learned that the card was issued after a credit report was pulled. I didn’t give it any thought until I just happened to check my credit report (as I do annually) to see what, if anything, it was saying. Now, I wasn’t refused that credit card but I did find a slew of mistakes on the report I reviewed, so much so that I decided to check into this rather carefully.First of all, I found that according to a study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, 25 percent of the population has at least one mistake on their credit report. I’m obviously now in that group. I began to wonder how such mistakes could cost people in the way of rejected credit, and even jobs.

“Credit is connected to our lives in every area and our scores determine our interest rates, insurance premiums and very livelihoods,” says Denise Richardson, a consumer advocate who has a new book out Give Me Back My Credit! She points out that the book looks to expose the high price consumers are paying for what she deems “dirty data” in order to fix a system “gone terribly wrong.”

Richardson apparently had a battle with her own credit report that went on for 10 years. She found that her true credit identity was being stolen and so she went about proving that others were shredding her credit with illegal acts.

Richardson says that knowledge is power and “the consumers need all the power they can get in order to protect their money and good name.” Because she went through some of the worst corporate behavior towards consumers, her book offers advice, well-informed tips, and the good data necessary to protect a consumer’s true and accurate credit identity. In it, she describes five key steps that a consumer should take to prevent credit errors from affecting the credit identity:

  1. Check to make sure that loan payments are applied accurately. Misapplications of loan payments can prove costly.
  2. Order the free annual credit report from the right place. She cautions about deceptive advertisements and Web sites that offer “free credit reports” but end up costing.
  3. Check accuracy of open and closed accounts and any inaccurately applied late fees.
  4. Check to see if paid off accounts are properly reflected as such.
  5. Log all attempts made to correct inaccurate information in a daybook or journal and send all requests for investigations of disputed accounts by certified mail.

For more information, visit www.givemebackmycredit.com.

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